Feb 4, 2013

Home from Paris + London with a Chocolate Hazelnut Tarte to celebrate

The weekend was full of charming and lovely things,
with visits to flower and farmer's markets,
a sunny afternoon spent listening to Jazz in the Canterbury Gardens,
resplendent amongst the graceful old oak trees, full of fairy magic,
(with a picnic basket overflowing with spicy Morrocan dips + turkish pide from Oasis Bakery),
and the fun adventure of discovering new hairdressers, new shops and new walks.
But the very best part of the weekend was picking up my daughter from the airport,
having just returned from 3 weeks in Paris (including a side trip to meet Heather in Arles)
and 2 weeks in London, visiting her cousins.

How wonderful it is for young people to travel, 
to venture off on their own.
But oh how we missed her most dreadfully! 
Glad that uni is soon to begin, 
as an excuse to bring her home again.

As we happened to be having a little dinner on Saturday anyway,
our first "real" dinner whereupon I had actually located the decanter for the wine,
the antique silverware + the napkins,
having unpacked most of the boxes
(unlike our first dinner party, held the night we moved in,
which was a "find some china/cutlery/servingware in those boxes so you can eat" affair),
it was truly time to celebrate.

So a menu of salmon cooked in a glaze of maple syrup & soy sauce,
with spices of cinnamon, cardamon, cumin, coriander, fresh chili, paprika & fennel seeds
(a fabulous recipe passed on to me by the clever Heather,
who despite being Lost in Arles, seems to have found herself right at home in the kitchen),
and served with roasted paprika butternut pumpkin, 
quinoa with parsley, dried nectarines, fresh red chili, lemon myrtle oil + lemon juice)
and the freshest French beans, straight from that market, with sautéed chopped macadamias,
was served.

And for dessert, the most heavenly chocolate tarte in my repertoire. So far.
In fact, this recipe is so simply fabulous that you just have to try it.
It appears to be foolproof, as it tastes delicious every time, and really, 
who doesn't like a chocolate dessert? 
Summer, winter or anytime?

For the pastry, 
grind 1/2 cup hazelnuts with 3/4 cup sugar in a food processor till fine.
Add 1/2 cup best dark cocoa and whiz again.
Add 2 cups plain flour and whiz till mixed. 
Add 125 gm cubed cold butter and whiz till it looks like breadcrumbs.
Add 2 eggs and whiz just until it comes together in a deliciously darkly decadent mess.
Resist eating the whole yummy lot, and scrape onto a piece of kitchen wrap,
popping it into the fridge for an hour or so to firm up a little. 

Depending on the size of your pie dish (mine was about 35 cm) roll out about 3/4 of the pastry 
between 2 sheets of baking paper, 
then carefully lift into the pie dish,
crimping the edges.
This is more of biscuit, less of a pastry, so it is quite soft and rather forgiving.
Prick the pastry with a fork in random patterns,
and pop into a 200 C oven for about 30 mins.
(No need for pie weights or such like.)

Roll any leftover pastry into little walnut size balls & bake for about 12 mins at 175 C,
which I guarantee will disappear from the biscuit jar faster than you could possibly imagine.

Allow the tarte shell to cool, while you make the ganache filling. 
Melt 400 grams of chocolate (I used half milk and half 70% dark)
with 400 ml cream in a saucepan over a gentle heat.
Stir gently till it just comes to a simmer, then remove from heat and allow to cool,
somewhere hidden preferably so that no sneaky spoons can be dipped in it,
because by this time the kitchen will be scented like a jar of warm nutella,
 and eager beavers shall 
have appeared out of nowhere, asking if taste tests are required.

When it is cool, but not set, give it a brisk stir and pour into the tarte shell. 
Chill in the fridge, for at least 2 hours, or overnight is even better,
and serve with fresh berries. Or fresh wistaria flowers, as the case may be.

Oh, and the funny thing was, 
the guest of honour couldn't stay awake quite long enough to make it 
through to dessert,
having succumbed to jet lag,
so it was with strictest self-control that the other dinner guests managed not to eat the very last crumb!

images :: blue fruit


  1. Hello Virginia:
    This sounds to have been the most delicious of dinners and how wonderful to have had it in celebration of your daughter's return from Europe.

    And how envious we are that she should have met with dear Heather who, as you say here, is very far from being 'Lost in Arles'.

  2. Oh Yum - I'm definitely going to have to give that one a try (after the horrible diet has finished, that is!). Your weekend sounds just lovely, and I love the description of your dinner party with all the lovely things finally out of their boxes. Glad to hear you're settling in well to your new home. And there is something so fun about discovering the local secrets of the area you live in.... I'm still doing that 2 years into our move! xx

  3. Ah, your absolutely wonderful daughter deserves no less than such scrumptiousness! She really is such a delight and so beautifully raised--as no doubt your readers will have already imagined!

    Thank you for the kind words but I know you to be a far more accomplished cook than I, not first hand of course, but hopefully one day...were you happy with how it all turned out? And did you make your own felafel balls for the apero? Very impressive and I want some plus this cake right this very instant!!! (Yes, I would eat one right after the other. Doesn't that qualify as sucré-salé or sweet & salty? :) )

    1. Indeed, yes, I did make the felafel - must post the recipe because it is super easy and they are SO delicious. It's a sneaky way to get fresh green herbs into food without people noticing them! x

  4. Hi Virginia, how I would have adored the picnic and that CAKE. Scrumptious and rather decadent:)
    Happy monday sweets,


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